Nurturing Our Spirited Children
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Intensity and Sensitivities


The two books I've read about spirited kids, active alert... were the only two parenting books I have ever been able to identify with.  My daughter is almost five and until I read the books I blamed myself and was constantly asking myself, "What am I doing wrong?"  My daughter is so intense and somedays I don't think I can parent her one day more.  I go from guilt to anger, sympathy and compassion to disgust and resentment.  I never dreamed parenting could be this hard.  I have a six month old daughter who is totally opposite.  In some ways having one that is so relaxed and easy makes it seem like my spirited child is even more so.

She is so sensitive.  One of our most recent battles is with her not sleeping well at night and waking up itching.  She often itches throught out the day if she is hot, frustrated or if her clothes are too uncomfortable.  Is this typical of other spirited kids or are we dealing with an allergy?  I would love to resolve this because she totally freaks out.  I never new what it was like to struggle with anxiety but when I hear her begin to struggle with something I think I almost have an anxiety attack because I know the outburst that will soon take place.  Sometimes she is impossible.  She gets so frustrated when she can't do something yet she yells and will not let me help her either.  It is very stressfull to live with.  I often feel like I am living with a time bomb that can explode at any given moment.  Her dirty looks and pout often greet me in the morning with a hmmmp, a turned up chin and a turn of the head.  I'm never quite sure why.  I just have greeted her warmly with a good morning.  This doesn't happen every morning but often.

She is extremely smart.  Reading, writing, and doing simple math.  She has a killer vocabulary and a great mind.  She often baffles me.

What type of adults do spirited kids turn out to be.

Any words of wisdom are appreciated.


Your two *buzz* words above immediately bring two books to mind.

1) "Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach" by Howard Glasser

Howard's designed a wonderful program called The Nurtured Heart Approach (NHA).  Through his practice (he's a therapist), he came to truly understand that it's the person's intensity that is fueling so much of their reaction to situations (including their emotions).  Our intense children crave more energy from us.  If they aren't receiving it in positive ways, they'll start pushing the buttons/limits to get it in negative ways.  To them energy is energy....they don't discriminate because they don't realize that the negative responses they're getting also have a negative impact on their self-esteem, etc...

The NHA is gentle, loving, very easy to implement and your daughter's at the perfect age to start.  You can read excerpts and find other information at his website  His book (you can order it from his site, clicking through to via our Recommended Reading or through your local bookstore) includes very clear specifics as well as creative ideas for bringing it into your child's classroom.

Please don't be alarmed at his site's ADHD wording focus.  Most of the kids he's worked with have arrived w/ that diagnosis from someone else.  After the families have implemented the NHA for sometimes as little as 4 weeks, only 3-5% of the kids who came in w/ a diagnosis of ADHD actually still deserved to retain it...the remaining 95-97% are just spirited!

We started using the NHA with our son last January and I saw an immediate change ~ w/in the first 3 days.  Given his age we only used the first 2 pieces, but are now bringing in the 3rd and it's been wonderful.

2) "The Highly Sensitive Person" by Elaine Aron

Elaine beautifully explains the whys and hows of people who are highly sensitive to various stimuli in their environments.  Her website is  Rather than explain her book here, check out her site for great details.


A great thing to remember is that her intensity makes many facets of her personality come through more powerfully than they would if she wasn't as intense.  Intensity is an amazing asset to have and like you, it's taken parenting a highly spirited child for me to finally see it as a positive trait within me ;o).  Put Howard's approach in place and you will see her very quickly redirect that intensity into positive channels and use it as a catalyst to create amazing things in her life!

As for their 'prognosis' (tongue in cheek), as adults....just like everything else in life, it truly depends on one's perspective.  Spirited adults are often the movers and shakers in this world and that alone makes quite a few people nervous...those who have never been comfortable living w/ an element of unknown in their lives.

Some amazing spirited adults are:
~ Steve Irwin, The Crocodile Hunter
~ Robin Williams, comedien, actor, producer, etc...
~ Thomas Edison, inventor extraordinaire
~ Born to Explore lists some great people w/ wonderful descriptions...

I loved your wakeup story.  I never know what kind of mood our son will be in when he awakens.  One morning it's sweet as could be, the next he's grumbly and won't get involved in the day for an hour or more.  The same kind of range of responses would occur when I returned home from some time away.  I was finally able to step back and stop taking it personally (especially hard when you're their parent!) and instead use it as a barometer reading of his mood.  Often times he's just very involved in his life and doesn't want to be distracted.  Other times, he's just feeling grumpy!  I also had to remind myself that when I was younger...and no where near as skilled at handling the barage of emotions I felt every day...there were many times when I just plain resented having to be 'nice' in my own home.  I was "growly" (as my friend would say) and didn't care to spend any extra energy pulling myself out of it.

So, instead, I've focused on helping my son develop a wide range of skills to tackle the various experiences he'll have in his life.  He's learned to breathe deeply and slowly to help his body relax.  We do Brain Gym (check out the Brain Gym website) exercises throughout the day to help his brain's left and right sides remain in an integrated state where they work together (a common challenge facing spirited kids whose stress tends to keep them in more of a survival mode where one side is working and the other is shutting down).  During light, easygoing moments we brainstorm ways he can successfully handle different challenging scenarios, etc...  My goal is to fill his 'bag of tricks' as much as possible so he has a variety of skills to draw on as he gets older.

As you have time, read through the list of *Must Read* on our Recommended Reading list.  They'll give you a wonderful foundation and demystify for you many aspects of who your wonderful daughter truly is.

You're on the right track! Start w/ Howard's approach to get things settled down and into a rhythm and go from there!

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